I came across a scripture this week that’s been weighing on my heart. Over and over I’ve been thinking about it, and wondering, and pondering. Last conference Elder Christofferson talked about Godly chastening, and I think that this verse has been done that to me this week. It’s led me to some additional thoughts that I’ve decided to share here. Please forgive the lengthy entry.
The first verse I’ve been mulling over comes from the JST version of Genesis 15, verses 9-12. The chapters 9-17 reveal a series of conversations between God and Abraham, where God promises Abraham the same blessings, over and over. But the blessings don’t come right away. Today we can read through that set of chapters fairly quickly, and it feels like the progression from Abram to Abraham is pretty slick and simple. Having grown up hearing all about the blessings promised to Abraham, and from him extending to me, I think more often than not I’ve glossed over the steps Abraham went through to claim those blessings. I’m no expert on what took place internally in Abraham between chapter nine, where God first mentions seed without number, and chapter seventeen, where Abraham finally has his promised son. But in the midst of that is the scripture that has touched me deeply.
After yet another conversation between God and Abram, where he is promised riches, and honor and possessions and seed, in JST 15:9-12 we read this:
And Abram said, Lord God, how wilt thou give me this land for an everlasting inheritance? (For years now God has been promising Abram seed; and in this chapter Abram frankly asks God, How? I can see his possible reasoning, “I’m not getting any younger, we are barren, and these promises make no sense. I want to believe; I choose to believe – but God, How will this happen?” God’s answer follows.)
And the Lord said, Though thou was dead, yet am I not able to give it thee? And if thou shalt die, yet thou shalt possess it, for the day cometh, that the Son of Man shall live . . . And it came to pass that Abram looked forth and saw the days of the Son of Man, and was glad, and his soul found rest, and he believed in the Lord; and the Lord counted it unto him for righteousness.”
Before going further, I have to say how much that thought has touched me. “Abram,” God seems to answer, “Remember who you’re dealing with! I am GOD. I ALWAYS keep my word. Your finite, human reasoning may fail you here. But I will not. Your heart and mind may fail you here; but I will not. Your capacity, your body, your relationships may fail you here. You may no longer be able to have children. Your wife may be barren. You may even die! But I am bigger than THAT. I am God. And I am a God of my word.”
Wow. What an incredible thought. “. . . if thou shalt die, yet shou shalt possess it”. I want only your faithfulness. Give me this, and death itself cannot part you from any and every blessing you should desire.
But that's not all. There’s a lot more that could be said, yet there’s another scripture that needs addressing.
This one is in Isaiah, and also in 2 Nephi chapter 8, and we’re still talking about Abraham. Here the Lord is speaking to his people, and he says, “Look unto the rock from when ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged.
Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, she that bare you . . .
For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden . . .”
I love those scriptures. I have read them and re-read them, and every time I am struck by them. Perhaps it is because through them I can finally make sense of the death and unexplained spiritual wanderings of a loved one; of delayed blessings, and “broken” promises; and of hours and months, and sometimes even years on my knees, praying through broken hearts and lives, perilously dark nights and frighteningly bright awareness of my own shortcomings.
For that is where God says, “Look! My child, look. Abraham, Sarah – this is your very blood and sinew. The waiting beyond possible hope. The sacrificing your only child. The prayers and the promises offered, sometimes it seems in vain. That is your legacy – and THAT is where I meet you. It’s all ok, and it’s all part of the plan. Despite it all, through it all, come illness, come trouble, come death, yet thou shalt possess the blessings you seek.” And when we ask, How? If we look, we too can see our Savior, who experienced far more than we will ever be asked to. And who gives far more than might ever be taken from us. And seeing Him, we will know that because of Him, everything will be ok. And there, at that place, if we choose we too can believe, and it will be counted unto us for righteousness.
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord will return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall fell away.” (2 Nephi 8:11)